St Columba's and the National Mòd
Mòd Service 2019
Special services were held on Sunday 13th October, 2019
to mark the first National Mòd in Glasgow for 29 years.
Our own Service in English & Gaelic
Our special guest was Gaelic singer Kristine Kennedy, who sang a solo Psalm and led the congregation as Precentor for another Psalm. The service was conducted by Rev G. Melvyn Wood, Interim Moderator.
It is not widely known today that the Royal National Mòd, organised by An Comunn Gàidhealach (The Highland Association)which is held every year in October, owes its origins to St Columba Gaelic Church.
St Columba’s formed a Gaelic Choir in 1872. Hugh MacPhee, a former Elder and a Past President of An Comunn Gàidhealach, wrote in an old History of the congregation, “At that time Gaelic was a much despised language. Its use was generally discouraged and nowhere more than in the schools. The children who spoke it – the only language they knew – were punished if heard to utter it in the playground. St. Columba was then truly a sanctuary where Gaelic received an honoured place.”
“The minister then, Dr Robert Blair, through his magnetic personality and powerful preaching, became an outstanding figure among Glasgow Highlanders. It was his fervour for all things Gaelic that inspired the younger members of the congregation to band themselves together to lead the praise at the forenoon Gaelic service.”
It was soon realised that if the initial enthusiasm was to be maintained, the repertoire would have to include secular as well as sacred music, but the problem was that no written arrangements existed. It was musically talented members of St Columba’s that set themselves the task of collecting traditional songs, devising harmonies and setting down musical scores. It is recorded that the first Gaelic song to be chorally arranged was Cruachan Beann.
The Choir put on their first big concert in Glasgow City Hall in 1874. Some years later, the people of Oban were worried about the future of the language, and some were keen to promote an organisation like the Welsh Eisteddfod, to reverse the decline. They decided that a visit from the Glasgow choir would help their cause. The event, in 1891, drew a full house. Ordinary people, the local gentry and dignitaries right up to the Duke of Argyll and Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria, were in attendance. It was as a result of this concert that An Comunn Gàidhealach came into being, and the Mòd was instituted the following year. St Columba’s choir took part in the first three Mods and, perhaps unsurprisingly, won the top prize each year.
Hugh MacPhee reflected that St Columba’s interest and influence on the National Mòd was no fleeting thing, noting that five presidents of An Comunn, and no fewer than 15 Mòd Gold Medallists had come from the membership of St. Columba’s.